In the Oakland hills' 241-acre Huckleberry Preserve, uplifted rock strata formed in the deep ocean nurture a relict plant community originating on the Southern California coast and now found in only a few isolated places along the Central Coast and this one East Bay redoubt. The rocky knolls and low-fertility soil support a landscape of pioneering manzanitas, which are being slowly overtaken by encroaching oaks and bays.
A brochure available at the trail head describes notable botanic features along a 1.7-mile loop trail. The path first descends steeply into a shady woodland of oak and bay laurel, pleasantly cool on a summer day. Huckleberry shrubs line the path, and their deep purple berries make a feast for wildlife in late summer. About halfway around the loop, the trail climbs back up and then levels out through a tight green corridor of chinquapins and huckleberries. Two short side paths lead onto rocky balds where stands of the rare pallid manzanita are losing their battle with the encroaching forest. Vistas of rolling hills and canyons open out from the barrens, and a bench invites you to stop and enjoy the view farther along the trail.
Getting there The park is on Skyline Boulevard, between Snake Road and Grizzly Peak. The emphasis is on "preserve" here: no dogs, bikes, horses, or berry picking. The trail is narrow and rough, so joggers, be advised. And watch out for poison oak! But don't let it stop you; this trek is a treat.
Hike by Donna Whitmarsh, originally published in the July 2010 issue of Bay Nature magazine